Always Be Networking

Meriam-Webster defines networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business. Do you have a network? Is it the kind of network that could help you solve a problem, find a new job or make contact with the right person to open the right door?

Many people stick to their usual circle of work colleagues and friends. They don’t actively seek out new contacts or plan a strategy to meet specific people in specific roles or companies. Then, suddenly, their world changes and they find they are without the contacts needed to help them land on their feet.

This happened to me in 2015. I was working for a wonderful company in a job that brought me great personal fulfillment and made a difference in the world. Then suddenly there was an unforeseen downturn in the industry and an unexpected layoff. I found myself without a job for the first time in my life. I have worked since I was 14 years old. I have not had to look for a job since I got out of college many years ago. This was a very new chapter for me.

I was fortunate to work with a coach who helped me develop a “plan of attack” and start networking right away. I quickly discovered that when you are a seasoned professional, networking is how you find a job. Applying for jobs on line and waiting for someone to contact you doesn’t work. You have to have a network or build one. My jobs had all been regional and then national in nature which left me with a network that wasn’t exactly what I needed when looking for a job locally in a small to medium sized metro area.

The first step is to set goals of how many people you want to meet with in person each week.  I set a goal of 6 – 8 as I was unemployed and looking for a job was my fulltime job.  Then, set up a way to track your progress and record outcomes so you can keep up with any follow up and thank you notes after each meeting.  I also came up with a template of what I wanted to share in each networking meeting so I could make sure to keep them to 30 minutes or less. Most people are willing to give you 30 minutes of their time. When you set up a 30 minute meeting you must stick to that timeframe or you will form a potentially bad impression right from the start.

At the end of each meeting, ask for referrals to other people who might be willing to meet with you who have a connection to your chosen field or area of expertise.  The contact you are speaking with may give you other names and contact information but it is ideal if they make an introduction for you via email which provides you with a warm lead.

I was surprised to find that 95% of the time, people I contacted for networking were willing to meet with me. They were gracious with their time and most gave me referrals to some of their contacts as well. The added benefit here is that it is fun to network and meet new people.  I have never been so informed about the good things going on in my community and the people making them happen every day.  There are so many good people out there.

The moral of this story is “always be networking”.  Don’t wait until you have to network to get a job. Form your network now, while you have a job and continue to expand it on a routine basis.  Set a goal to meet with 1 new person each week, over coffee or lunch and track your progress. You just never know when you might need a network of people who have met you, seen your resume, know your background and can mention you to the right person to get you to that next step.  Oh, and if someone calls you for a 30 minute networking meeting, make time for them. You never know when you might be in the same boat.

About Denise

Denise Brookie is a nonprofit professional with over 20 years experience in establishing strong community based programs.  With expertise in community engagement, development, team building, project management, volunteer management and staff training, she can help you evaluate your needs and develop a plan to take you to the next level.

Looking for a speaker? Denise is available to present workshops, breakout sessions, webinars, training and more.

Learn more about Denise at or contact Denise at .

‘Tis The Season

Three days before Christmas and ten days until the new year…’tis the season to count your blessings. Who was a blessing to you this year? If you want to give someone a precious gift, tell them what they meant to you in the past 12 months.

I don’t know about you but my Christmas list sometimes seems a bit too long. While most people love giving and receiving gifts, occasionally you receive a gift that might not be your size or color or something that you would use. The gift of thanks, however, is always the right size and always appreciated.

You could start by making a simple list. The following categories might be a good start:

  • People who gave me the gift of time this year
  • People who served as a work or life coach
  • People who always cause me to laugh or smile
  • People who were there when I needed a friend – to listen or advise
  • People who make me want to be a better person

After you make your list – write a note to each on how they impacted your life this past year. It might seem like a small thing but those are the notes that people save and read again and again. Its the gift that is always the right size and means more than anything you could buy.

I believe we are all here for a special purpose. Your special purpose right now might be to be a blessing to someone else who really needs it. After all, they were there for you, when you needed it. What better time to give thanks and be a blessing to someone…’tis the season!

About Denise

Denise Brookie is a nonprofit professional with over 20 years experience in establishing strong community based programs.  With expertise in community engagement, development, team building, project management, volunteer management and staff training, she can help you evaluate your needs and develop a plan to take you to the next level.

Looking for a speaker? Denise is available to present workshops, breakout sessions, webinars, training and more.

Learn more about Denise at or contact Denise at .


Why Your Staff Need Standardized Training

Does your organization or department have a standardized training program for new hires?  It might surprise you that in a number of companies the training plan may be as simple as having the existing staff train the new staff.  Do you see any issue with this plan?

Your existing staff may not be doing everything the best way.  They may even have some bad habits that will now be transferred to your new staff through training.  Your existing staff may not be trained in how to teach adult learners.  How do you measure everyone on equal footing if they haven’t all been trained in the same manner?

It costs money and time to advertise, interview and hire a new staff person.  The best thing you can do to shore up that investment is to make sure the new person gets off to a good start with standardized training.

Here are three elements of a good training program:

  1. Create a standardized training outline and content for use with new staff.
  2. Create a standardized set of forms and spreadsheets for staff to use in planning and reporting results.
  3. Identify a person or role to take personal accountability to see that the training is completed  Include periodic reviews of the training material to ensure understanding and compliance.

Staff turnover costs a great deal of money, time and  productivity.  The investment you make in a standardized training program today can save you money in the long run by reducing mistakes, reducing frustration and reducing turnover.

If you feel your current training program is lacking in any of these areas, please email me or give me a call.  I would be happy to discuss how you can make improvements.

About Denise

Denise Brookie is a seasoned nonprofit professional with over 20 years experience in establishing strong community based programs.  With expertise in community engagement, development, team building, project management, volunteer management and staff training, she can help you evaluate your needs and develop a plan to take you to the next level.

Looking for a speaker? Denise is available to present workshops, breakout sessions, webinars, training and more.

Learn more about Denise at or contact Denise at .


Good Bosses/Bad Bosses

The subject of bad bosses has come up several times for me in the last 2 – 3 weeks. Some of the stories I have heard include:

  • a person who changes jobs frequently because they don’t like their boss
  • a person who is a very conscientious and hard worker but is constantly frustrated with the poor work habits of a coworker that aren’t addressed by the boss
  • a person who is in a job they really don’t like with a boss they really don’t respect but they stay because the money is good

Can you identify now or in the past with any of these examples?  Almost everyone will have a bad boss at some point.  Unfortunately, many times the bad bosses outweigh the good.  You might only have one or two good bosses in a lifetime.  That is a sad observation.

Most of us spend more time at work than we do at home. One would hope, with that being the case, that we could at least spend time with people we like and respect. Unless you are the owner and make all the hiring decisions, that is probably a tough expectation.

When people tell me their bad boss stories and ask for advice, I generally respond with choices they have to make:

  1. Decide whether you like the company and the job well enough to work with a bad boss.
  2. Explore whether or not you feel your boss would be receptive to a discussion about your concerns.  If that doesn’t work, decide whether or not it would be productive to discuss your concerns with H.R.
  3. Look for another job.

A blunt response would be:  get on board or leave.  That sounds very harsh but sometimes breaking it down can force a decision or action on the part of the concerned coworker, friend or family member. Complaining about it to everyone only keeps you frustrated and feeling trapped.

When you have a good boss, you know it.  You feel it.  You would follow them into battle.  You have their back and they have yours.  You feel encouraged and appreciated.  You work harder, not only for yourself but for them.

Not every boss can be a good boss.  They may have never had a good example to follow or may not have the temperament for the role.  You, however, always have choices.  Stay, Approach or Leave.  The last two require you to be brave and move out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the choice for the moment may be to stay where you are to support your family. At the end of the day you have to live with your choices so think them through.

If you ever get the chance to be the boss – learn from your own past bosses – what you want to repeat and what you would do differently.  Don’t repeat the Bad Boss cycle.  And if you have a good boss – go in tomorrow and thank them and tell them specifically why you admire and respect them.  Bosses need encouragement too.

Wishing you a good boss,


Is Your Volunteer Program Volunteer-Centric?

What does it mean to have a volunteer-centric program and why would you want one?  Volunteers are the heartbeat of most nonprofits.  The work simply could not get done without volunteers giving of themselves and their time and talents to ensure the mission can be fulfilled.

“Centric” is an adjective meaning “in or at the center”; central. So a volunteer-centric program has the volunteer in or at the center; central to the program.  But how do you move to a volunteer centric program?  Here are four suggestions to help get you started:
1.  Seek out input from your volunteers. People always have more buy-in when their ideas and thoughts are solicited and heard. Your volunteers are the ones doing the work and while doing it, they see and think of better, more effective, more efficient ways of doing the job. Are you open to their ideas for improvement? Do you ask for their input?
2.  Involve your volunteers in developing key volunteer roles and job descriptions. Volunteers are positioned to see, first hand, what work needs to be done and what may be falling through the cracks. Involve key volunteers when you are developing or revising roles and responsibilities to increase your success and increase their sense of involvement.
3. Create a menu of ways your volunteers can engage.  You may have volunteers who sign on for one job and don’t want to do anything else.  More than likely, you have volunteers who would like to learn and grow with your organization so it would be good to give them growth options. Are there volunteer leadership roles they can fill? Are there other departments or areas they can support? Can they move up a volunteer ladder with your organization? Creating a menu of engagement gives your volunteers the diversity of work many of them need.
4. Thank, thank, thank, and recognize. You cannot say ‘thank you’ too often.  Your volunteers are giving you their time, their head and their heart – for free. They deserve to be thanked and recognized. In order for the recognition to be effective, it needs to be tailored to the volunteer. Do you know your volunteers well enough to tailor the recognition? Perhaps you have a “menu” of recognition items they could choose from?  Perhaps they think recognition items are a waste of your limited funds. Saying “Thank You” doesn’t cost a dime.  Make sure you don’t take them for granted.
If you haven’t done it already, take your volunteer hours contributed in the last year and multiply them by the hourly wage you would have had to pay to get the same work done.  You will quickly see how valuable your volunteers are and why you need to have a volunteer-centric program.  Seek their input; involve them in creating roles needed; give them a menu of ways to engage; and thank and recognize them in a meaningful way. They are free ambassadors for your mission and your organization and they are worth your extra time and attention.

Promoting a Culture of Continuous Learning

My parents are life-long learners. Thankfully, they passed the importance of being a life-long learner down to their children. When I was growing up, even when we went on vacation, we had to learn something. If we were at the beach we needed to properly identify all the shells we found. If we were in the mountains, we needed to be able to name the different types of trees or learn the history of the area. I will always be grateful for the example my parents set.

When you think about your employees, are you helping them be life-long learners? I read a great quote recently by Anne M. Mulcahy:  “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled.  Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

There are a number of ways you can invest in your employees – one is a culture of continuous learning. Creating a culture of continuous learning can include routine job related training classes, and general learning that isn’t necessarily job related but excites the employee and perhaps prepared them for greater contributions to the company.  Anything that expands an employee’s thinking, vision, knowledge and creativity makes them a more productive and positive employee.

Think of times someone has invested in you.  How did it make you feel?  Grateful?  Indebted? Worthwhile? The next time you are weighing the cost of investing in your employees through training or workshops, try to think about how the cost compares to increased productivity per employee.  If as a result of the investment, each employee closes one new deal or develops one new customer relationship, you have already covered the cost of the training with that first sale or first new customer.

Happy employees who feel appreciated and invested in by their employer will work harder and stay longer.  Interviewing, hiring, training and getting new employees up to speed is expensive and can cause a loss in productivity.  Help create a culture of continuous learning by investing in your employees.  The benefits will come back to you in the form of productivity.

All the best,


Why hire a consultant?

During my career, I have had the good fortune to work with a number of very good consultants on a variety of projects. Each time an outside consultant was brought in, it was to fulfil a specific purpose or meet a need that could not be easily met in a timely manner by inside staff. Sometimes consultants are also very beneficial in “saying out loud” what management has been trying to say for awhile.

Here are five (5) reasons to hire a consultant:

  1. Specific Expertise:  Identified consultants often have a great deal of experience in a particular area that the customer can access for a period of time. For example: I recently created a sales training program for a customer. With years of experience in both sales training of staff and the customer’s particular industry, it made sense to utilize a consultant to create a training program the customer can now give on their own to new staff as they are hired. My industry knowledge gave me credibility with the class attendees and freed up the customer to continue managing their day to day operations during the development process. It also allowed them to freely participate in the class while observing their staff interaction during the process.
  2. Neutral Facilitation:  When discussions are potentially sensitive and the stakes are high, an outside consultant can often serve as a neutral facilitator to keep conversations on track and ensure discussion goals are accomplished. Use of a consultant also frees up the leadership to actively participate in the discussion rather than leading it.  It can be easier to interact and “listen” to the full group input if you are not the person standing at the front of the room running the meeting or event.
  3. Lack of Time and Resources:  Everyone has more than enough work to accomplish each day, just to keep things running smoothly. Utilizing a consultant to plan the meeting, training or event prevents the leader(s) from having to carve out day to day operational time to create the needed content or materials. No one needs another huge project added to their “to do list”.
  4. Outsider Message Delivery: If you have kids, you know that they will often listen to an outsider before they will listen to you.  While employees are certainly not kids, the same phenomenon can occur. Staff are often more likely to “hear” something being said by an outside consultant before they would hear it from their own management.
  5. Wise Use of Resources: You need to “do the math” on the true cost of hiring a consultant. What is the cost of the productive time you would lose from your own staff if they had to do the same work for which you are hiring a consultant? How many sessions would you need to hold, facilitated internally, to accomplish the same ‘message acceptance’ you can get from a neutral outside voice/facilitator with industry expertise? What about the content development time?  Can your own staff afford to drop everything else to hit a deadline a consultant can hit who is dedicated to the project?

When I look back on all the times I have been involved with others who hired a consultant, I can see all these reasons for those hires and why they made sense.  Hiring a consultant is like having an industry expert in your pocket who you can pull out when you need extra help and cannot hire additional staff to take on the work.

If you have never considered a consultant, there are many good ones out there.  Contact me if you need a recommendation.  I know quite a few very good ones, and would also be happy to help you myself if we agree my skills are a good fit for your needs.

All the best to you,



Tracy Bridges, MBA, MLT (ASCP), VP Business Development/Chief Technical Officer, The Blood Connection:

I recently worked with Denise Brookie to develop and implement a formalized sales training program for our Recruitment/Account Management team.  I am so pleased with the hard work and final product that Denise delivered.

As a result of this project, our entire team has found a new sense of direction and motivation and discovered valuable tools to help them meet their objectives.

Denise took the time to listen and learn about our organization as well as our individual needs and found a timely and economical way to support our goals.

It has been a pleasure working with an industry leader and I would recommend her services to all of my colleagues.



Denise Brookie Consulting

After working for two wonderful organizations (the American Red Cross and Be The Match), I am setting off on my own with Denise Brookie Consulting.  Consulting is something I have thought about for a few years, and the time was finally right for me to pursue a new chapter in my life using the skills I have developed.

The job assignments I have always loved the most centered around kick-starting new initiatives from the ground up, identifying inefficiencies and correcting them and taking a team of people to #1 in their industry.  With the launch of Denise Brookie Consulting, I want to share what I have learned with wonderful people like you who have the vision to know that there is always room for improvement.

Take a minute to check out my “Services” page and see how my skills and expertise could help you move forward.  If what you need isn’t on the list – make a suggestion.  Initial consultation is free and besides, I love networking and meeting new people.

I look forward to meeting you.